Two more bright spots on the H-1B scene have emerged lately: A revealing article has appeared in the mainstream media about the terrible work weeks many H-1Bs suffer, and Jay Palmer, a former Infosys staffer who successfully sued his employer (a major user of H-1Bs) a few years ago, has re-emerged in the arena.
I say more bright spots because it became clear last week that USCIS adjudicators are quietly nibbling away at the program, asking more questions and getting answers that are causing H-1B approval rates to slip.
Laura Francis, of Bloomberg Law's Daily Labor Report, wrote the story about the long hours (without a penny of overtime pay) that many H-1B workers experience, as they work in near-indenture to the big outsourcing companies, like HCL America and Tata Consultancy Services. This is a subject too often ignored by the press.
Among her examples of the long hours:
One H-1B worker at [Tata] logged more than 80 hours a week on a project for JP Morgan Chase during the spring and summer of 2016, including 12 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. It's not until after new employees start their jobs that they find out they're expected to work 12 hour days instead of eight, he said.
Let's step back a bit and think about that paragraph. Here we have, in all probability, a young Indian male, working 12 hours on a Sunday for an Indian corporate behemoth, for the ultimate profit of both Tata and JP Morgan Chase, reminding us of the little man with a big white mustache and the shiny top hat, the Monopoly icon inspired by the late Mr. Morgan.
Meanwhile, Francis interviewed Palmer and writes:
"In the past few months I have been contacted by over 50 individuals in regards to being intimidated and harassed to work long hours without overtime pay," immigration consultant Jay Palmer told Bloomberg Law. "They are scared to complain in fear of being fired and blackballed for other jobs and eventually deported back to India," he said.
It is good to have him back in the fight after he won a major battle about Infosys hiring practices.
The article reminds us of the dual sweet spots that the big H-1B users have found. First, since the H-1B workers are college grads in professional positions, the usual wage-hour rules do not apply.
Second, the big Indian outsourcing firms have found that the usual anti-discrimination rules do not seem to apply to overseas hiring for U.S. jobs, so these firms can hire a nearly 100 percent Indian work force (preferably young males from the South of the country).
So the firms — having found an easy-to-exploit work force, one that can be hired without regard to discrimination laws, and a handy loophole in the minimum wage laws — never have to pay overtime!
No wonder they lobby for expanding the H-1B program.